This statue was erected in 2005 to honor the founder of Fergus Falls, Joseph Whitford. Born in 1830 near Montreal Canada, Whitford worked for James Fergus. In January of 1857, Fergus outfitted Whitford and two Métis Indians with a dog sled and gave them the assignment of finding a suitable townsite. He planned a city near near what is now Central Dam in Fergus Falls and became the first resident. Whitford died near Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota during the U.S. and Dakota War of 1862. The statue marks the location where his log cabin stood.
Fr. William Gamber raised much of the money to erect the statue.
James Fergus was businessman and land speculator who emigrated from Scotland. He described Whitford thus, “He was a man fearless in the face of death, a man of extraordinary stamina. He was of Scotch-Irish descent, sanguine temperament, spare, lithe and sinewy. He could travel more miles in a day, carry heavier burdens, eat less and sleep under less cover than any man of his weight (145 lbs.). Traveling at a dog trot he could make from 40 to 75 miles in a day.”1
Other superlatives used to describe Whitford come from his neighbors in Fergus Falls, the family of Mathew Wright and J. R. Harris a resident of McCauleyville. “He was a man of exceptional character of remarkable physical endowment, adventurous, brave and enterprising. E. M. Wright, a neighbor of Whitford’s said he, “knew him to walk in one day from Alexandria to Fort Abercrombie, a distance of 75 miles, on a bee line, and possibly 85 miles by any possible route of travel.”2